ONTARIO: Time off Work for Employees on Election Day

Just a quick reminder…(compliments of e2r hr)

With the Ontario Provincial Election just around the corner, now is a good time to start thinking about your obligations as an employer to provide your employees with time off work to vote.

 
Eligible voters who are 18 years of age or older and registered to vote are entitled to three consecutive hours off work during the time that their polling stations are open. If an employee’s work schedule does not facilitate this requirement, an employer must grant them time off work to vote. Any time off work given to an employee for the purpose of voting must be paid.
 
For example, if an employee’s polling station is open from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. and they are scheduled to work from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., the employee would have three consecutive hours after work to vote – no time off required. However, if their schedule is 11:00 to 8:00 p.m. there is no three-hour window to vote and the employer would need to adjust the schedule to provide three consecutive hours to vote (in this instance the employee could leave at 6:00 p.m.) The employer would not be permitted to deduct any wages from an employee’s pay for taking this time off work to vote.
 
The employer may decide which three consecutive hours to grant, if required to do so. Please note there are significant penalties for failing to comply.

Drug plan spending increased 4.3% in 2021

Clients and prospects often consult with us to learn where benefit costs are going from year to year.  We publish average increase on our website HERE and include the highs and lows in our April newsletter each year also available on our site HERE

It has been certainly tougher to predict, during the past 2 years, with COVID changing treatment habits (dental and parameds especially) and the higher than average increases in both use and charges we’ve seen in some sectors.  Dental has seen a 4.75% increase in the ODS fee guide and when trend and utilization is added to that inflation, we are seeing costs rise about 6%.  This report below is indicating that drug costs are not that high, which coincides with what we’ve seen of about 5% a year over the past 10 years or so.


While the overall private drug plan spend per member increased by 4.3 per cent in 2021, fewer plan members submitted claims and the per-claimant cost grew, according to Express Scripts Canada’s latest prescription drug trends report.

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Court Confirms Advanced Age And Short Service Does Not Automatically Equate To Lengthy Notice Period

I share legal cases that I think may apply to our clients (small and mid-sized firms), or areas they should be aware of.  Many of these are the extremes (rather than norms) of what happens when termination go wrong, for example, and illustrate the risks employers may face.  This article is more employer friendly and I especially like the commentary  where they say… “These decisions represent a major win for employers in Ontario. There is a commonly held belief that terminating a short-service, advanced-aged employee without an enforceable termination clause is akin to setting oneself on fire, when taking into consideration the perceived risk associated with combination of these outlier factors.”


A recent pair of Ontario Superior Court decisions offered interesting insight on the determination of reasonable notice when faced with widely considered “outlier” factors. The two decisions,  Flack v. Whiteoak Ford Lincoln Sales Limited (“Flack”) and  Ewach v. Whiteoak Ford Lincoln Sales Limited (“Ewach”), were presented back-to-back to Justice S.F. Dunphy and involved the same employer and employees in similar circumstances.

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Acupuncture will no longer be covered by insurance if Ontario passes this controversial law

Please do not shoot the messenger on this one.

CRA mandates what is an eligible medical expense for the purposes of the Medical Expense Tax Credit (METC) on our personal taxes.  This definition is often used for Private Health Service Plans (PHSP’s) which includes both traditional benefit plans and health spending accounts.

When it comes to medical service providers, CRA is looking for a provincially recognized, self regulating association that can suspend or revoke the license of a member if they do not follow the association code of conduct. If that regulation and oversight is no longer required, then the benefits are usually not eligible for the METC.  This can, by extension, mean they may no longer be eligible for benefit plan reimbursement.

The article below provides more information…


A recently-tabled legislative change that would effectively allow anyone in Ontario to perform traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) or acupuncture without an official licence has prompted a flurry of worry, questions and objections aimed at the Ford government…

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Don’t forget about box 85 when doing T4’s (if you share health and dental costs with staff)

I try and include this reminder in my newsletter and/or blog post each year…so this is a repeat…


As employers prepare T4’s, they can make like a bit easier for staff.  By reporting the employees contributions to the health and dental premium in Box 85, you are helping staff make sure they get the medical Expense Tax Credit (METC) where available.  This avoids employees being audited for proof of contributions (and you having to write out letters for them). 

You can find more about the history of box 85 and it’s intent here… https://www.canadianmoneysaver.ca/blog/box-85-is-my-box

The CRA info is below, or ask your accountant.  https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/tax/businesses/topics/payroll/benefits-allowances/private-health-services-plan-premiums.html

Ontario, Canada: Requirements for Mandatory Policies, Training and Postings

Each year my friends at Littler provide an updated list of required postings for Ontario Employers.  These are the documents that MUST be posted to be complaint with the various pieces of legislation.  This is an UPDATE to the original 2022 version out last month.

This update includes links to Ontario government requirements regarding COVID-19, the new mandatory policy on disconnecting from work, the mandatory health screening tool, the Guidance Document regarding proof of vaccination for patrons of specified businesses and organizations etc.


Employers subject to provincial legislation (i.e., not federal employers) that have employees in Ontario often ask about legislative requirements under various employment statutes, including mandatory policies, training and postings under the Employment Standards Act, 2000, the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act, 1997, the Occupational Health and Safety Act, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005, the Pay Equity Act, the Smoke-Free Ontario Act, 2017, and the Working for Workers Act, 2021.  To make this information conveniently available, the Littler Toronto office assembled these requirements in a single publication. 

VIEW PAGE AND DOWNLOAD DOCUMENT HERE

Online tool to aid access to government benefits

I found another great tool you can share with friends, employees, or really any Canadian resident.  By answering a series of questions (really quick), the program provides you a list of government services and assistance programs you may qualify for.  They range from emergency benefits to WSIB and Trillium high cost drug benefits (should you need them).


Prosper Canada has launched a free online tool intended to simplify the search for government benefits. The tool is meant to help individuals as well as community service providers that help people access income benefits.

Benefits Wayfinder Tool

Apply for reimbursement for the Small Business Health and Safety Training Program

I came across this interesting program while reading “What’s New” from the Ontario Ministry of Labour and Skills Development.  The cost of the training is low (~$25), the courses are often 7-8 hours long and this program can be used to subsidize the employees time attending. 


Ontario’s Small Business Health and Safety Training Program will reimburse eligible employers for health and safety representative training for a selected employee in an Ontario workplace. The program will cover the course registration cost of $25 for the representative and $150 toward the cost of the representative’s training time, for a total reimbursement of $175.

Get all the details here: https://www.app.grants.gov.on.ca/sbhstp/#/

Employee Injured at Home Eligible for Workers’ Comp

As COVID continues, we are getting more questions from employers dealing with employees working remotely.  A few things to keep in mind if you have employees working remotely out of the country:

  • Employees must maintain provincial health coverage (e.g. OHIP) to be entitled to benefits
    • Employees away for 183+ days/year must request and be granted an extension by OHIP
  • Employers are responsible for the safety of their employees at work (OHSA)
    • This can by extension encompass the employee working from home or elsewhere
    • This might extend to ensuring that there are smoke and CO detectors installed and functioning
  • Employees working from home could be considered in a WSIB workplace (if mandated)
  • Employers are expected to be aware of tax considerations for staff working in a foreign country
    • Employees could possibly face double taxation requirements if working in the US for example.

The issue of WSIB coverage was highlighted in the legal case below.  Though this is Quebec, I think we will see more of these in the coming years as more people work remotely.

If you have questions on staff working remotely (out of Canada), please call us, and consider speaking to your HR professional, and/or accountant/ tax expert, and/ or employment lawyer to see if there are any concerns that could effect you or the employee. 


A recent Quebec labour ruling found that an employee who sustained an injury while working from home was entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.

 
Back in September 2020….
 

Another Minimum Wage Increase Coming for Ontario

Earlier this fall, Ontario’s minimum wage increased by $0.10 to $14.35 per hour, however, that number is now set to increase even more.
 
Effective January 1, 2022, Ontario’s new general minimum wage is going up to $15.00. Student minimum wage will raise from $13.50 to $14.10.
 
It’s also noteworthy that currently the minimum wage for bartenders and servers is set at $12.55 per hour, however this special rate will be eliminated come January 1st and servers and bartenders will now make the general minimum wage of $15.00 per hour.